MISTER BOOTS

A spare, graceful Depression-era story tells of a ten-year-old in the desert befriending a man who’s also a horse. Bobby lives with her mother and older sister, who sell homemade knitting to pay for mealtime beans. Under a tree, Bobby meets Mister Boots, a thin, bedraggled man who’s spent most of his life as a horse and occasionally changes back. When Mother dies, older sister Jocelyn and Mister Boots fall in love. The sudden reappearance of their violent father (Bobby’s covered with scars from him) brings a simmering danger. The father takes Bobby on the road with his magic show because he thinks (and has thought for ten years) that Bobby’s a boy. Jocelyn and Mister Boots go along to keep an eye out. Bobby’s entranced by the magic show, but the father’s volatility erupts and nothing is safe. Emshwiller writes everything with care and truth, from Bobby’s gender musings to the nature of horses. Plainspoken and quietly mystical. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-670-05968-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005

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THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM--1963

Curtis debuts with a ten-year-old's lively account of his teenaged brother's ups and downs. Ken tries to make brother Byron out to be a real juvenile delinquent, but he comes across as more of a comic figure: getting stuck to the car when he kisses his image in a frozen side mirror, terrorized by his mother when she catches him playing with matches in the bathroom, earning a shaved head by coming home with a conk. In between, he defends Ken from a bully and buries a bird he kills by accident. Nonetheless, his parents decide that only a long stay with tough Grandma Sands will turn him around, so they all motor from Michigan to Alabama, arriving in time to witness the infamous September bombing of a Sunday school. Ken is funny and intelligent, but he gives readers a clearer sense of Byron's character than his own and seems strangely unaffected by his isolation and harassment (for his odd look—he has a lazy eye—and high reading level) at school. Curtis tries to shoehorn in more characters and subplots than the story will comfortably bear—as do many first novelists—but he creates a well-knit family and a narrator with a distinct, believable voice. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-385-32175-9

Page Count: 210

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1995

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THE BIG GAME OF EVERYTHING

Twelve-year-old Onion Jock’s grandfather made a fortune inventing a golf-course–cleaning contraption and now runs his own 13-hole course, his barber father rebels against the system by discouraging haircuts and his brother is a finance-obsessed pugilist. When well-monied individuals from Grampus’s past arrive, Jock realizes that his odd family relationships are more twisted than he thought. With little more than a brogue pronunciation as a clue, readers are left to guess at Jock’s geographical location, which creates a rarely bridged emotional gap. Jock’s narrative disposition is reminiscent of Christopher from Mark Haddon’s Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (2003), but Jock’s own behavioral discrepancies have no apparent underlying causes. Moments of genuine humor shine, but most of the tale’s message—of the burden of possessions—seems better suited for a younger audience than the one it apparently aims for. Andi Watson’s Clubbing (2007) blends oddball humor and golf much more successfully. This uneven mixture of relationships and sports is a bogey for the usually reliable Lynch. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-074034-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2008

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